Savory Panamanian Pies

Strolling through the cereal aisle in an American supermarket, it’s easy to see our morning-fuel options are typically sugar-laden. But when you’ve got a full day of discoveries ahead of you, it’s probably a better idea to go for sustainable energy, and Panamanians set a fine example. Savory carimanolas are a popular, torpedo-shaped meat pie sold as a breakfast food or appetizer on the isthmus. Travelers on our Panama Canal Cruise & Panama: A Continent Divided, Oceans United vacation will likely sample these, but they are also easy to make at home.


Carimanolas are traditionally made with iguana meat or gatosolo, an animal similar to a raccoon. But don’t worry, beef or pork work just fine for less adventurous taste buds! And though they are often confused, yuca and yucca are two different plants—the one you’ll want to cook with is the starchy, potato-like yuca vegetable, not the decorative yucca plant.


3 lbs. yuca (peeled and diced)
Salt, to taste

1 lb. ground meat
1 tsp. parsley, chopped fine
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. vinegar
3 or 4 capers

Vegetable or canola oil, for frying


  1. Brown a small bit of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the meat, and then seasonings: salt, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, capers, onion, sugar, garlic and parsley.
  2. Using a flat wooden spoon, blend ingredients, then add tomato paste and blend further. Cook until the meat is no longer pink.
  3. Drain excess liquid, and pat dry with paper towels.
  4. To make the dough, boil the yuca with salt, removing it from the water before it becomes mushy. Mash yuca, and knead it with some more salt to taste.
  5. Meanwhile, in a separate, deep pot, heat the oil on high.
  6. Form the yuca into balls, flattening them in the palm of your hand, and fill them with the ground meat, forming the dough into an oval shape and pinching the ends closed.
  7. Fry the carimanolas in very hot oil until golden. Drain well before serving.

If you want to freeze the carimanolas, dust them with a little bit of flour after they are formed and before frying, and place them on a cookie sheet in the freezer until firm. Place in sealed zipper freezer bags until ready to fry. To fry, take them from the freezer to the hot oil immediately, as they may fall apart if they are allowed to thaw. Fry one or two at a time only.

Makes about a dozen